Pumpkin spice treats, Oktoberfest brews arriving in August — ready or not

Due to supply chain uncertainties, manufacturers are planning to get seasonal items out more quickly, one marketing expert says.

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Pumpkins await carving at a Chicago Police Department “Carve with a Cop” event.

Concern about supply-chain issues mean some manufacturers may avoid some seasonal items. But others will plan to get fall-themed products, including Halloween decorations and food with pumpkin spice, in stores early, just in case.

Sun-Times file

If it’s August, it must be time to flood the market with pumpkin spice-flavored goodies.

Too early, you say, with fall still several weeks away?

Too bad.

Consumers can expect a lot more fall-themed products to arrive on shelves earlier than ever this year, due to the uncertainty created by ongoing supply chain issues, says Timothy Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“A lot of manufacturers are seeing big delays in terms of shipping, warehouse space and just moving things through the distribution channel,” Calkins said. “What that will lead to is that manufacturers are going to move sooner than ever with these seasonal items so that they have more time to get the items to the shelves and in front of consumers.”

So, get the product out early and hope for the best.

“We’re going to see pumpkin spice showing up from lots of companies in August, and then we’re going to see Halloween items showing up in early September, and we’re going to see holiday items showing up just as fast as they can get them out after Halloween,” he said.

That may be why the folks who make Oreo cookies want to get a head start.

Oreo Pumpkin Spice Sandwich Cookies are expected to be available nationwide beginning Aug. 15. First introduced in 2014, they were last available in 2017.

And if the seasonal items don’t show up in the quantities consumers had hoped for? Consumers have been conditioned to know that seasonal goods are available in limited quantities and for a limited time, Calkins said.

“People understand that if they don’t get out there, they might miss these seasonal items,” he said.

Off Color Brewing, which makes beer in the Hermosa neighborhood, released its Oktoberfest brew, Waddle, on Friday. That’s not early for them.

“This is actually a fairly traditional time for Oktoberfest beers to be released. ... It takes time for beers to be brewed, packaged and [distributed] to stores. The overarching thought process would likely be that it’s better to have them in stores early and ready so that they are all available for the Oktoberfest season than to ... potentially miss that window,” said Ben Ustick, a company spokesman.

Calkins said some companies, considering the supply chain issues, may decide against rolling out seasonal items “just because it’s so unpredictable right now.”

The riskier outcome for manufacturers is making too much of a product. Calkins cites Weber, the grill maker. To feed demand during the pandemic, the Palatine-based company went into high-gear production.

“Now everyone says, ‘We already have a grill, and I want to travel to Europe this year instead.’”

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